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HDTVs and other DTV equipment for Users of Captioning

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Note: Reviews of Digital-to-Analog Converter Boxes for Users of Captioning belong on this thread.

Digital TV manufacturers address captioning issues in very different ways, yet it's usually impossible to evaluate fully the TV's caption decoding in the stores (since the TVs are generally not connected to an antenna). Here's a thread where people can discuss their observations of how a particular HDTV deals with different captioning issues. This thread can also be used to discuss other kinds of DTV equipment as well, like HD set-top boxes, HDTV tuners, DVRs and DVD writers with built-in decoding of captions. (Digital to analog converter boxes have a separate thread of their own, however, so comments about converter boxes should probably go on that thread.)

Please be advised that if you are using an HD set-top box with a pay TV service, the captioning will probably be decoded by the set-top box, not by the HDTV. (HDMI cables cannot transmit closed caption data.) The only way to see how the HDTV itself decodes digital captions is if it is receiving digital programming directly, either through an antenna (over the air) or through a direct (QAM) connection to digital cable. Most people use a pay TV service, so if they use HD services with a set-top box, the captions they see will be decoded by the HD set-top box and will NOT be provided by the HDTV itself. If they use a direct RF cable connection, however, then they can use the TV's own built-in caption decoding.

Please share as many observations as possible about everything the DTV equipment offers related to captioning:
1. The existence of a button on the remote control to control captioning, and what the menu choices offered by this button are

2. The availability of a caption preview when setting up the digital captions, and how accurate it is at showing what the captions really look like

3. The number of colors available for the foreground (the text of the captions) or the background

4. Whether the digital captions can get sufficiently large when set to the largest size (NOTE: there will probably be significant differences in size among the different font styles even when set to "large.")

5. How many font styles you find usable out of the eight that are offered

6. Whether the TV provides an option to control the alignment of the captions (useful for low vision people)

7. (Optional) Whether you can set up the digital captioning even if there is no digital signal to the TV (useful for shopping purposes and for clarifying why you can't see digital captioning options sometimes)

8. Whether you can control the captioning by using buttons on the TV itself (in case you lose the remote control) and how easy it is to use those buttons

9. Your opinion of how easy it was to set up the digital captions (including whether you had to look at the user manual to learn how to do so)

10. How do you like the analog captions versus the digital captions?

11. (Optional) Does the DTV equipment have any difficulty displaying captions for some programs? (This question can be answered more easily by people who have other DTV equipment for comparison purposes.)

12. Does the HDTV decode captions from analog DVDs, VCRs and DVRs connected via composite, S-video, or RF cables? How about component cables? (Or if this is a DTV tuner, does it fail to transmit caption data on these outputs?)

13. Anything else related to captioning, including how pleased you are with the captioning options you finally selected, and what these settings are.

Please be sure to describe the full make and model of the equipment you're describing along with the date of manufacture (or the month and year you purchased it). FYI, the date of manufacture is usually labeled on the back of the TV.

If you are using an HD set-top box from a pay TV service provider, feel free to describe not only how well the set-top box addresses captioning but also whether the pay TV service is delivering CEA-708 captions for digital programming. Some people have reported that some pay TV services may not be providing CEA-708 captions, but this may be a function of those people not knowing how to set up the digital captions properly on their own DTV equipment.

I plan to keep updating this post to organize information by manufacturer as people post it. Please let other users of captions with DTV equipment know about this thread so they can share their observations and make this information more widely available.

Dana

Reviewed Equipment

Click on the name of the equipment to be connected to the posting that contains the related review


Samsung LN40A630M1F
(2008 40" LCD HDTV)

Sharp LC-20SH21U HDTV (2006 20" LCD HDTV)

Samsung DTB-H260F (HDTV Tuner)
post #2 of 5
Thread Starter 
Although this HDTV is more than two years old, I decide to post information about it because of a few unusual things about it. It offers 35 colors for captioning instead of the minimum 8 colors, it offers an option to choose how to align the captions, and it doesn't decode digital captions from some TV stations that *are* decoded by other DTV equipment (though it does decode captions from other stations).

This HDTV has both an analog and digital tuner, and also has a VGA port (useful for connecting a PC, especially if it has a DVD player; you'll be able to display captioned DVDs this way). The ship date was October 2006; I wasn't able to find a date of manufacture.

1. The existence of a button on the remote control to control captioning, and what the menu choices offered by this button are

This HDTV has a dedicated CC button. Pressing the button brings up these options:

OFF
ON
ON When Muted

2. The availability of a caption preview when setting up the digital captions, and how accurate it is at showing what the captions really look like

This TV does have a caption preview, which is useful for showing some changes, but it's very inaccurate at showing how different fonts will look when set to large. The "Storybook" setting, for example, takes up less space than analog captions when set to "large," but the caption preview grossly misrepresents the true size.

3. The number of colors available for the foreground (the text of the captions) or the background

This Sharp offers 35 colors. Unfortunately, judging by looking at the menus of some newer Sharp HDTVs, new ones may only offer the minimum of eight colors.

4. Whether the digital captions can get sufficiently large when set to the largest size

I use either the "as broadcast" or the "typewriter" font set to the large size. Unfortunately, these captions aren't as large as the captions could be.

5. How many font styles you find usable out of the eight that are offered

Because the "Storybook," "Modern," "Formal," "Cursive," and "Casual" fonts are unusually small even when set to "large," I consider them unusable. (The "cursive" font is absurdly difficult to read even when "large.") Only the "Typewriter", "Computer," and "As Broadcast" fonts are usable.


6. Whether the TV provides an option to control the alignment of the captions (useful for low vision people)

This TV offers the following alignment choices:

"As Broadcast, Left, Center, Right, Justified"

However, none of the choices seem to make any difference in the alignment of the captions.

7. Whether you can set up the digital captioning even if there is no digital signal to the TV

No---the options for controlling the digital captions only show up when a digital signal is being received.

8. Whether you can control the captioning by using buttons on the TV itself (in case you lose the remote control) and how easy it is to use those buttons

Yes---the Sharp has a Menu button and uses the Channel and Volume buttons to navigate the menu. It's fairly easy to use the buttons except that there are no indications whether to use the Volume or Channel buttons to navigate the menu. (Some other TV manufacturers do a better job in this respect.)

9. Your opinion of how easy it was to set up the digital captions (including whether you had to look at the user manual to learn how to do so)

As I recall, I was able to set up the digital captions without needing to look at the user manual. The highly inaccurate caption preview makes it more difficult to set up the captions, however, and quite a few steps are involved in entering the advanced settings each time. Fortunately, the Sharp HDTV remembers where you last left off, which saves some time when re-entering the menu; other HDTVs, such as the Samsung, don't do this.

10. How do you like the analog captions versus the digital captions?

The analog captions are easy to read but not as big as the ones on my old Magnavox analog TV (which was purchased in the 1990's). I prefer the digital captions.

11. Does the DTV equipment have any difficulty displaying captions for some programs?

This Sharp HDTV has not been able to display captions from certain stations that use an Evertz caption encoder, although my other DTV equipment can do so using the same antenna. (I happen to know the caption encoder is from Evertz due to communication with different TV station engineers.)

12. Does the HDTV decode captions from analog DVDs, VCRs and DVRs connected via composite, S-video or RF?

Perhaps because this HDTV also has an NTSC (analog) tuner, it was able to decode captions from the analog Series2 TiVo.

13. Anything else related to captioning, including how pleased you are with the captioning options you finally selected, and what these settings are.

The main problem with this Sharp HDTV has been its lack of compatibility with the digital captioning that is broadcast by some local TV stations. That's a pretty severe and annoying problem. I don't know if Sharp corrected this problem in its newer TVs, but other DTV equipment that I have (LG and Panasonic) don't have this problem.

Otherwise, the captioning is serviceable once it's set up. (The use of a caption button has been very helpful.) Lately I've been using these settings:

Text style: As Broadcast
Color: Yellow (bright)
Size: Large
Text opacity: As Broadcast
Align: As Broadcast

Edge Color: Yellow (bright)
Edge Style: Depressed

Background Color: Purple
Opacity: Solid

Frame Color: As Broadcast
Opacity: As Broadcast

I would hesitate to spend big bucks on a Sharp HDTV and would want to do more research first to see if Sharp has fixed the problems that I've had. Obviously there are a lot of ways Sharp should have done a better job implementing the captioning options. Six out of the eight fonts are unusable, which indicates poor attention to the quality of the work in this area, and I'm not able to see digital captions at all from some stations even though other DTV equipment can.

One good thing about the Sharp HDTV, however, is that it will automatically decode CEA-608 (analog-style) captions if there are no CEA-708 captions being transmitted. Some HDTVs, such as my Samsung, and some digital-to-analog converter boxes won't do this. For example, WHUT, a local PBS station, is sending out only CEA-608 captions on its digital channel. My Sharp will decode this captions automatically, but my Samsung and LG converter box won't show any captions at all for this channel (32.1) unless the Samsung is forced to show only CC1 captions for all channels.

I've taken pictures of a lot of the captioning from the Sharp HDTV which are available at:

http://picasaweb.google.com/dana.mulvany/SharpHDTV#

They also show how the preview doesn't indicate the true size of the large captions.

Dana
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
This Samsung Series 6 HDTV, the LN40A630M1F, has both an analog and digital tuner, and also has a VGA port. An interesting feature that may be of use for some hard of hearing people is that the sound can be set to accentuate speech or can be customized in other ways.


1. The existence of a button on the remote control to control captioning, and what the menu choices offered by this button are

The remote has a dedicated CC button. Pressing the button brings up only the current status of the captions (either "Caption: On" or "Caption: Off") near the top of the TV screen. If you want to change the status, pressing the button again changes the status.

2. The availability of a caption preview when setting up the digital captions, and how accurate it is at showing what the captions really look like

This TV does have a caption preview but it does not consistently indicate the actual size of the captions when set to large.

3. The number of colors available for the foreground (the text of the captions) or the background

The Samsung offers only the minimum 8 color choices: white, black, red, green, blue, yellow, magenta and cyan.

4. Whether the digital captions can get sufficiently large when set to the largest size

I find that only two font choices get sufficiently large, and the longest lines still take up less than two thirds of the width of the screen. People can judge for themselves by looking at the pictures of the captions:

http://picasaweb.google.com/dana.mulvany/Samsung#


5. How many font styles you find usable out of the eight that are offered

I'm not a fan of the "cursive" style in general and on this HDTV, and would doubt that anyone would ever use cursive captions to watch captions.

The other caption fonts are generally quite legible though I would prefer they be capable of being larger.

6. Whether the TV provides an option to control the alignment of the captions (useful for low vision people)

No, it does not.

7. Whether you can set up the digital captioning even if there is no digital signal to the TV

No---the options for controlling the digital captions only show up when a digital signal is being received. Thus one would likely not be able to see a preview of the Samsung's digital captions in a store.

8. Whether you can control the captioning by using buttons on the TV itself (in case you lose the remote control) and how easy it is to use those buttons

Yes---the Samsung has touch-sensitive controls on the lower right hand side of the TV which are very hard to see. (There is very little tactile feedback; people with vision problems or who are in a dark room would have difficulty operating these controls.) Due to the visibility issues, the menu buttons are difficult to operate but do provide an alternative in case the remote control is lost. (Over time, however, the lettering could easily wear off, so these controls should not be used often.)

9. Your opinion of how easy it was to set up the digital captions (including whether you had to look at the user manual to learn how to do so)

A disadvantage of the Samsung HDTV is that it does not "remember" what you were working on in the settings, compared to the Sharp HDTV or the LG converter boxes. Thus when trying out different caption settings, one has to start all over again from the top of the menu. The on-screen menu offers some limited on-screen guidance, however.

I was able to set up the digital captions without needing to look at the user manual.

10. How do you like the analog captions versus the digital captions?

The analog captions are legible, but not as easy on the eyes as my analog Magnavox's or my preferred digital caption settings. I'm glad I have the option of using the digital captions.

11. Does the DTV equipment have any difficulty displaying captions for some programs?

Yes. This HDTV has two different issues.

First, my preferred "mode" to use for captions is the "Default" mode, which is supposed to allow you to see the caption mode provided by the broadcaster. However, if a station was not sending out digital (CEA-708) caption data but was only sending out analog-style (CEA-608) caption data, the "Default" mode did not let me see any captions for that digital channel, including the analog-style captions. I would have to dig into the menu to turn on the CC1 mode to see the captions for a local PBS station, WHUT-DT (32.1), that sends out only analog-style captions. A whopping 21 pushes of buttons on the remote control were required to change from "Default" mode to "CC1" mode. The problem, therefore, is that the Samsung captioning circuitry does not actually function as described; it doesn't automatically decode what captions are being transmitted by the station if it isn't sending out digital captions.

(When tuned to a digital channel, choosing the "CC1" forces the receiving of analog-style captions on all channels.)

The more serious problem is that for some but not all programs, many of the captions continue to show up again after they should have disappeared. They accumulate on the screen over or behind newer captions, making it difficult to read only the new captions and obscuring the screen unnecessarily. I don't see this kind of captioning problem with the Sharp HDTV or my converter boxes.

I shot a 14 mb video showing this problem from a station that chronically transmits badly delayed captions on its digital channel. The video can be seen at:

http://picasaweb.google.com/dana.mul...65300550470642

(Feel free to share comments underneath the video.)

12. Does the HDTV decode captions from analog DVDs, VCRs and DVRs connected via composite, S-video or RF?

Probably because this HDTV also has an NTSC tuner, it was able to decode captions from external devices like a DVD player. (At least some Samsung HDTVs do not decode captions through the S-video or composite video inputs, however.)

13. Anything else related to captioning, including how pleased you are with the captioning options you finally selected, and what these settings are.

The main problem with this Samsung HDTV has been the accumulation of digital captions described above that is broadcast by some local TV stations in the DC area: WJLA (7.1), WDCA-DT (20.1), and CW50 (50.1) so far; these particular stations may use the same kind of caption encoder. That's a pretty severe and annoying problem. Other DTV equipment that I have (Sharp, LG and Panasonic) don't have that particular problem. I suspect some kind of interactive problem between the Samsung and upconverted digital captions.


Dana
post #4 of 5
http://www.lg.com/ca_en/tv-audio-vid...v-47LE5400.jsp available at Best Buy Canada.

I do like the TV due to it's features and quick channel changes and turn on compared to my 22 inch Insigma LED HDTV which is slow.

Now CC review.

1. No CC button. Enable/Disable CC via menu.

2. There's a preview when changing Digital CC settings. However, I only view analog shows. (I enjoy digital/HD via DVD/Blu-Ray)

3. CC Colours: I will have to get back to you on that.

4. Untested

5. Untested

6. Untested

7. At bestbuy, I could turn on CC1 or Service 1. But nothing appears. Same for ALL LG MODELS while other models are able to show CC at BestBuy. At home, I was relieved to find that they works. When using HDMI with Media Player (see bottom of my post), the CC option is greyed out (cannot select and change settings).

8. Yes Menu can be accessed via TV buttons and enable CC. (one of the important feature in case of losing or breaking the remote). Easy to setup.

9. Easy to set up Digital CC settings with preview.

10. analog CC is really small but still readable. At first I thought its great so that way my eyes dont go all the way across the screen to read the CC. But, when I tried the Blu-Ray with SDH, it's big and easier to read. Well pro/con, because I find that I am able to view the pictures easier when reading small CC because my eyes dont have to move all the way across the screen and missing alot of pictures. It's matter of personal taste and getting used to.

11. I only get 3 DTV channels via over the air (in Ottawa). The CC seems to work great. Although I'm not sure if they are Digital TV because the video quality is the same as ATV. Will need to double check on that.

12. TV can decode CC from RF, and composite cables. There is no S-video port. It doesnt decode CC from component cables I will need to check if my DVD player can be change to interlaced mode and test with component but the TV doesnt support anything below 720p on component, hmm).

I have both composite and component cables plugged into the HDTV from the DVD player so that if the DVD has SDH then use component, but if only have CC then I will use composite. I am able to switch between two modes and compare the quality on the fly - I see only SLIGHT improvement with component. I would say 1 to 5 percent improvement so I dont think we are losing much with "digital" on composite.

13. I am having a mixed feelings about LG's small CC. I do like and hate it at the same time. Small is surprisingly easy on my eyes but difficult to read when further away such as being at the kitchen.

On a seperate note: I've been emailing alot of makers of Media Players (for network streaming of shows and movies) to include the CC decoder chip in their products. I'm pi$$ed that they didnt include them in these boxes. Help me in this battle! Example, if you want WD Live Plus, then email Western Digital to include the CC chip!
Thanks!

With Netgear Digital Entertainer 9150 I was able to display CC over component to regular CRT TV with awesome quality. Then with HDTV, it doesnt work! It has to be composite. My Netgear DE 9150 doesnt have CC chip, grrr! I've already contacted them but please go ahead and bug them. The more voice the better!
(http://www.netgear.com/products/home...s/EVA9150.aspx)
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gambitz View Post


1. No CC button. Enable/Disable CC via menu.

2. There's a preview when changing Digital CC settings. However, I only view analog shows. (I enjoy digital/HD via DVD/Blu-Ray)

It's useful to know that there isn't a CC button. However, if you're not viewing digital television programs over the air, it's going to be hard for you to evaluate this HDTV fully. My understanding is that Canada hasn't yet transitioned to digital television programs like the U.S.A. has, though I would think there should be some digital channels available over the air in Ottawa.


Quote:
7. At bestbuy, I could turn on CC1 or Service 1. But nothing appears. Same for ALL LG MODELS while other models are able to show CC at BestBuy. At home, I was relieved to find that they works. When using HDMI with Media Player (see bottom of my post), the CC option is greyed out (cannot select and change settings).

This may be a function of LG HDTVs not decoding captions on the component video inputs, whereas many other TVs are able to do that. Next time, look at how the TVs in Best Buy are connected. No HDTV from any manufacturer will be able to show captions if they're connected via HDMI, but if they're connected via component video cables, you'll see a difference in behavior. (The HDMI standard did not address transporting caption data, so no TV is designed to decode caption data from HDMI cables. Any time you see captions from an HDMI-connected set top box, it's because the set top box is decoding the captions, not the TV.)

Quote:
10. analog CC is really small but still readable. At first I thought its great so that way my eyes dont go all the way across the screen to read the CC. But, when I tried the Blu-Ray with SDH, it's big and easier to read. Well pro/con, because I find that I am able to view the pictures easier when reading small CC because my eyes dont have to move all the way across the screen and missing alot of pictures. It's matter of personal taste and getting used to.

Are you absolutely sure which device is providing you those small captions? If the captions are provided by the set top box, that's not a function of the TV. Personally, I've seen such small captions from some devices that I would not want to keep the TV if the TV's analog captions were really small. For a large TV like a 47 inch one, you should be able to see the captions from a distance.

Quote:
11. I only get 3 DTV channels via over the air (in Ottawa). The CC seems to work great. Although I'm not sure if they are Digital TV because the video quality is the same as ATV. Will need to double check on that.

There's a good chance that those channels are analog. You need to run your HDTV through a channel scan in order to pick up digital channels. If the channel number doesn't have a decimal point in it, it's probably analog. You should also be able to see what kind of resolution you're getting if it's digital, as well as electronic guide information, but analog channels don't give you that information.

I would think that you should be able to pick up some digital channels in Ottawa once you do the channel scan.

Quote:
12. TV can decode CC from RF, and composite cables. There is no S-video port. It doesnt decode CC from component cables I will need to check if my DVD player can be change to interlaced mode and test with component but the TV doesnt support anything below 720p on component, hmm).

Current TVs can only decode captions via component video inputs if you turn off progressive scanning and upconversion from the DVD player. The resolution from the DVD player needs to be 480i. Because the LG TVs didn't show captions in the Best Buy store and other TVs did, it's possible that the component video inputs were not routed through the caption decoding chip. Samsung TVs have had that design flaw (though the company may have corrected that in newer models after I brought that problem to its attention).

Quote:
I have both composite and component cables plugged into the HDTV from the DVD player so that if the DVD has SDH then use component, but if only have CC then I will use composite. I am able to switch between two modes and compare the quality on the fly - I see only SLIGHT improvement with component. I would say 1 to 5 percent improvement so I dont think we are losing much with "digital" on composite.

The quality of the video will depend on your settings. If you can't get caption decoding through the component video input anyway, you might as well just watch the DVD via HDMI where you can get the highest resolution possible (making sure that progressive scanning and upconversion is enabled for non-Blu-Ray DVDs). You could also do the same thing for your settings on the component video input, watching it at 720p *if* you know it can't decode caption data anyway.

Quote:
13. I am having a mixed feelings about LG's small CC. I do like and hate it at the same time. Small is surprisingly easy on my eyes but difficult to read when further away such as being at the kitchen.

Could you shoot a picture of the small captions, upload it to a web site like Picasa and then provide the link in your review?

In the future, it might be a good idea to ask Best Buy to rig up composite cables to show the analog captioning on the LG TVs so you know what they look like. It's such a hassle to return a very large TV to the store if you don't like the captions.


Quote:
On a seperate note: I've been emailing alot of makers of Media Players (for network streaming of shows and movies) to include the CC decoder chip in their products.

Let me suggest *not* capitalizing "media players" in the future to avoid confusion. I thought you were talking about Windows Media Player at first. It's more correct to refer to these devices as media players, not Media Players. And in some cases, no "caption chip" may be needed. All that might be needed is a software change to decode the captions from the software. It can be counterproductive to ask for a hardware change because that's more expensive. Just ask for caption decoding capabilities and let the manufacturer figure out how to do that.

The U.S. House and Senate have very recently passed bills (H.R. 3101 and S. 3304) that would push more media players to have caption decoding capabilities. If they get reconciled and become law, the law would probably benefit Canadians as well.
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